Saturday, 29 June 2013

A Popular Monster

If you've been following my blog since I got to Tokyo you may have noticed my interest in Japan's "yokai", a kind of monster that makes up part of Japan's incredible folk lore. There are very few yokai more famous than this guy here, the kappa. 

There is a kappa festival and unfortunately that is the only day the little kappa shrine is open. So the blurriness of these photographs is attributed to me attempting to take pictures through a window into a dark room on a sunny day...yep.

So why are kappa so famous? I really don't know. I'm currently reading a book about yokai and many stick the specific places or there are only one of them, kappa are pretty prevalent so maybe that's why. The entire area surrounding the shrine is known as Kappa-bashi and is full of statues and iconography devoted to the kappa.

Kappa means water child. They live in rivers and streams and grab unsuspecting children to their deaths in the shallow water. Most yokai are born out of general fears or suspisions (one of my favourites comes from how people often feel a bit scared to go to the loo when it's dark hah!). The kappa probably comes from women warning their children not to play near fast moving water.

This is supposedly a kappa foot. Kappa are pretty much thought to be giant Japanese salamanders, which are these things ..I'm a bit in love with them, I like anything a bit ridiculous looking, they're pretty hefty though as they get up to a metre and a half long and are kind of aggressive.

People give cucumbers, the kappa's favourite food, to ask for safe journeys across water. Cucumbers are really closely associated with kappas because of this custom and if you order cucumber rolls at a sushi place they are usually called kappa-maki. 

Kappas, like many yokai and bits of folklore were appropriated into the Shinto religion, but it's still pretty incredible to experience a shrine to something that possibly doesn't exist and completely predates religion as it is.

Get ready for more yokai and monster exploration in Japan as I recently made the discovery that very near my house an exhibition will be taking place on yokai and the artists that have depicted them over the years! Tokyo continues to amaze me with its secrets.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Once I tried it on, well... She shrugged. The dress claimed me.” ― Isabel Wolff, A Vintage Affair

This is actually an outfit post from a while ago I just put off posting for some reason. I can actually tell how old it is because I'm wearing tights in it and now despite it being the rainy season it is far too hot for tights. (Which I am actually happy about, but despite warnings of a typhoon I'm yet to experience a real Japanese storm side note: I love stormy weather).

This bandanna is made by illustrator (who is also currently studying at my friend Memz's university in Kyoto) Nishi Yudai. I got it from the fantastic Aqvii otherwise known as I Heart Tokyo. Their location in Harajuku features work from Japanese illustrators and designers but theire location in Daikanyama also sells work from international designers. The wonderful Yo who runs the Harajuku store has invited me to bring in some zines to see if they would like to stock them, now I just need to get off my bum and make the things!

Army jacket- Vintage (stolen from my boyfriend in turn stolen from his brother)
dress- Vintage via Spinns
tights - Henry Holland
creepers - Underground
bandana - Nishi Yudai via Aquvii
daisy earrings - Paris Kids
necklace - belonged to my grandmother
sunglasses - American Apparel

This dress is perfect. I've wanted the perfect 90s stretchy comfy, throw it on, no ironing required dress for a long time but they were always too short, too tight or too expensive. So when I saw it hanging on the sale rail on my a millionth trip to the vintage and high street amazing mess of a shop that is Spinns I was over the moon!

Hopefully I'll find some more gems on my trip to Kyoto tomorrow! I'm going down to visit my friend Memz who makes the most wonderful installations so you should definitely go check out her blog.
Wish me luck not getting lost on my way there, this is my first time going so far by myself! 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

And down the loaded air there comes,The thunder of Thibetan drums,And droned-"Om mane padme oms"- A world's width from Kamakura. - Rudyard Kipling

Birthday Buddha

This Buddha is no ordinary Buddha (although I bet there's really no such thing as an ordinary Buddha). This Buddha is known as Daibutsu and apart from being Unesco World Heritage Site and a National Treasure Daibutsu is over 13 metres tall and weighs in at just over 121 tonnes. (See those little orange things? Those are some damn big oranges!). I will have a post lined up about my visit to Kamakura to see this incredible Buddha but I wanted to share him with you early as he has become a bit of a gift for two people in my life.

It was recently my boyfriend's 25th birthday. This is considered an unlucky birthday in Japan known as Yakudoshi. A year of calamity stemming from the idea that this is a year that boys must step up and become men (hence calamity haha!). In order to prepare for this men must worship at temples and ask for Buddha's protection. Thus bringing a little Buddha into his life seemed like a good idea after I learnt about this!

More sentimentally I am not a religious person but I'm not an atheist and so I took the time to be swept up in the atmosphere found in the surrounding grounds of Kotoku-in as a sign to pray that my late step-grandmother is now at peace.

He's a great little piece that I'm chuffed with and worked hard on and he means a lot to me. So while I work on making some prints of my own I made a few things available in my Society6 featuring Daibutsu the Kamakura Buddha so you can bring some peace into your life or hopefully pass some on to others.


"A tourist-show, a legend told,
A rusting bulk of bronze and gold,
So much, and scarce so much, ye hold
The meaning of Kamakura?"
-taken from Rudyard Kipling's "Buddha at Kamakura"

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Please Vote for my Shop Parade?

This is one my favourite pieces I've ever created. I recently entered it in Somewhere To's competition to get it Showcased in an Exhibition focusing on the theme of "space" in John Lewis on Oxford Street. I actually go there a lot when I'm back home so to get my favourite piece shown there would be pretty fantastic. I think it also fits the theme well. Here's the blurb 

"For this piece I explored a space in London known as Camden Passage. It's an area gaining popularity due to its numerous boutiques. I learnt from speaking to shop keepers here that not everyone is pleased with this development and that the area used to be known for being a centre for antiques, but now new "trendy" boutiques and restaurants have come onto the passage, many of them feel like they are being forced out. When speaking to owners of the boutiques, they want the area to maintain its reputation and its feeling of somewhere that hasn't changed for decades. It's a tricky place, and there are many discussions going on from both sides behind their beautiful shop fronts."

In order to get me into that exhibition I need your votes! So please go HERE AND VOTE FOR ME? (you need to like their page first)
Thank you

Thursday, 13 June 2013

China, Japan and.. Germany? All in a daytrip to Yokohama

OK these are the photos that I keep meaning to upload. We made the short trip out of Tokyo to nearby Yokohama a while ago to visit their famous Chinatown. 

Yokohama, complete with huge inflatable elephant trunk...

cool little California style vintage shops along the port.

This red brick warehouse stands out ALOT. Buildings here are not made of red brick (they are in the UK though so there was something kind of comforting about it haha!). The warehouse was built in 1899 and has been specially reinforced to withstand earthquakes. (I guess that's why they don't have too many red brick buildings in Tokyo). 

Erm we came across some kind of Oktober Fest..I know that Japan doesn't actually hold Oktober Fest in October but this seems a little early..

So Yokohama's Chinatown is pretty old and apparently the biggest in Asia. It was formed in 1859 when the sea port opened. This temple is apparently not the famous one (we somehow missed it?) but it's still pretty cool. It's a Chinese shrine so different from the others I've visited here. This is Kantei Byo or the Guan Gong Temple. To cut a long complicated story short. During the Han Dynasty the emporer was losing power and many people wanted to be on the throne but Guan Gong helped to restore power to the Han Emperor. He became a symbol of loyalty and friendship in times of harship, so when he was enshrined here in 1862 he was a good role model for the Chinese migrants. 

(this would have been such a good photo if that man's bum wasn't there..)

I LOVE street food. I wish I had managed to make a food blog as I travelled across the Americas as the food I encountered just from street vendors was a revelation. Chinese street food is a particular favourite of mine. We had dumplings full of scolding but beautiful soup. Fried sesame balls on sticks full of sticky mochi and red bean paste (I actually can't stand red bean paste, I gave Rob that..) 

and glutinous rice! Which I always describe to my friends and they look at me in horror. It's just like very very very sticky somewhat gloopy rice (the name comes from the texture, not an abundance of gluten). It comes wrapped in a leaf ( a bamboo leaf in this case) and has different fillings. This one had hard boiled egg yolk, beef pieces, dried shrimp and mushrooms in. Soooo good!

That steamed bun dolphin can't honestly be doing that..can it?!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Studio Ghibli: Realising A Dream

Studio Ghibli is a bit of an obsession for many people. I am included in that group of people but I am a Hayao Miyazaki fangirl more than anything else so visiting the Ghibli museum was somewhat of a dream come true for me. If you don't know what Studio Ghibli is they are a Japanese  animation company that started in the 1980s. They are home to the few "anime" style films that make it to cinemas overseas but more impressively they always receive a positive response. My favourite film produced by them, Spirited Away, is the highest grossing animated film ever to be released in Japan (many of their films are in the top ten list of highest grossing animated films in Japan). I know a lot of people dislike anime but I still urge them to give a Studio Ghibli film a go. They touch upon so many subjects, for example Princess Mononoke centres on gender, disability and environmental issues, not to mention a good dose of Japanese folk lore. 

Totoro Line Up
These are Totoros ON TOTORO ORIGAMI PAPER. I got these origami papers and OH GOD I needed to use them immediately. They're brilliant. We were actually shown a short film featuring Totoro and the Catbus in the museum. It was perfect and you can only see it in the museum so that was cool.  

No pictures are allowed inside the museum. I have no idea why as the museum is fairly small and I don't really see what you could gain apart from a nice momento of a pretty building but oh well. Since Spirited Away is my favourite and there's very little coverage of it in the museum so I was happy to see Haku the dragon in their stained glass windows. 

(There was a radish spirit inside on a window pane over a doorway. He's my FAVOURITE and kind of obscure so I did try to sneak a picture..I was told off..)

This is the forest spirit from Princess Mononoke. Another somewhat obscure character so that was nice. We got to see original paintings and sketches of a lot of Princess Mononoke as well as Nausicaa, Porco Rosso and Kiki's Delivery Service. They had coated the walls with them as you walked through a reimagining of Miyazaki's work space. They were just pinned to the walls, originals! It was pretty exciting. We also got to see original paintings of the famous Ghibli backgrounds. They're just as moving and vibrant in real life as they are in the films. 

You could climb a tower onto the roof garden and have your picture taken with this guy. He is from the first film Studio Ghibli ever produced called Laputa: Castle in the Sky. 

Susuwatari! I love these guys, I'm desperate for a really big one but all the ones I find are super small (they're meant to be small..I just like to be difficult..)

Spirited Away Line Up
I also got Spirited Away collage papers. AMAZING. I know the characters in Spirited Away don't lend themselves so easily to merchandise so I wanted to give making my own little characters a go. If you click through and view them larger on flickr you can see the little Ootori-Sama (Bird Gods) on Boh the mouse. 

Is there anywhere you would like me to visit while I'm in Tokyo? I have lots of plans but I'd love to go somewhere I've not read about yet.